Supernatural Fiction posted September 20, 2015

This work has reached the exceptional level
a madness that kills

Where Are You, Mary?

by mfowler

Mary  told me Daddy killed Mummy but I didn't believe her.
'You gotta believe me, Reuben. I saw him. He wrunged her neck just like he did with that noisy old rooster last year. I saw it through the keyhole. I heard them shouting and I sneaked outa bed.'
'Nah. You making that up, Mary,' I said. 'You know Daddy told us she's gone to live with her family in Romania. He said she left us because she was missing them so bad.' I remember saying that with tears  pouring down my face. I couldn't really believe she would leave us behind but what Mary said was even worse.
'You gotta keep this a secret, see,' said Mary, poking me in the chest with her middle finger. 'Daddy's buried Mummy somewhere in the forest out back. I saw him carrying her across the paddock. She was in that nightie she always wore to bed.'
I started to think my twin was telling the truth about the killing but this story about burying Mummy seemed like her imagination had gone too far.  'OK, I won't tell. Don't know why you had to tell me for, anyway.'
'Cross your heart and hope to die.' I made a quick cross and pretended to hope because I wasn't sure I could keep a secret that bad.
That was nine years ago, just before our sixth birthday. Mary didn't mention the killing again and we all went on pretending Mum was in Romania with her family.  
Even when Mary was little, people said she was strange. I knew she had a great imagination. She'd tell me about things she heard the farm animals thinking or what the jacaranda tree outside our bedroom was feeling. I wanted to believe her. It all sounded so real.
Mum used to say, 'Your sister has the gift, Reuben. She knows things little girls can't possibly know. If she tells you something special, it's because she trusts you. Twins are like your second soul.'
I remember that, always have. So when kids at school told me Mary was crazy or Daddy said Mary was acting weird, I'd defend her. But, she hasn't gotten any better as we've grown up.
One day last year, Mary disappeared just before dawn. I saw her sneak out of the bedroom window, watched her race across the back paddock to Cummins Reserve. When Daddy couldn't find her for breakfast, I told him what I saw.
'Reuben, you know I always been straight with you, lad.' I looked into those sad, grey eyes and I hoped that was true. 'Well son, it's Mary. You know how she talks to animals and plants like they real. It's cos she's not right in the head.'
'You can't say that about our Mary,' I shouted. I stood up at the table and stared at him defiantly. 'Mary's know, a sensitive person with a good imagination. You used to say that yourself.' I brushed away the tears tracking down my face.
'Steady, son. I had to say that cos you was little. Sit down and hear me out. Your mother was just the same. Mary musta caught the same thing from her. I think Mary's out there lookin' for her right now, out there in the forest.'
I looked up. In the forest? Was Mary right? 'Why would she do that, Dad? Mum's in Romania like you said.'
'Yes, son. She is. I sent her back to her mother's family for a rest. Her mind had gone, and so I asked the family to help me keep her from you kids. She was very sick, Reuben. Seeing all kind of nasty things and ranting and raving about spirits of the forest.'
'You mean, she didn't leave us because she didn't love us anymore?' Dad slumped over the table and I'm sure I heard him blubbering.
'No, son. She didn't. I did what was best for all of us. Her sister came from Bucharest and took her home. She seemed happy to be going to her family.'
'Can I see her? If we ever get enough money...Wait, why didn't she go to hospital here?'
His face turned ashen and he snuffled on his sleeve. 'Her family has the curse, see. There's madness in the family. Her sister convinced me that she could only be helped in Romania. I made a decision, son. It was the right thing to do.'
'But, can I see her?'
'No, she died. Took her own life two years after she went home.'
I shook like a wet puppy. I felt my pulse racing so fast that talking seemed distorted and almost impossible...'She's dead and you didn't tell us.' I rushed at him and beat his head with my fists. He drew me in with his strong arms and we cried together for ages.
Mary walked into the kitchen and found us hugging. She was smiling, almost radiant with happiness. Her dress was wet around the hemline. 'Hi, you two,' she said as if what was happening with Dad was a normal thing.
Dad said nothing to her about the disappearance and went out back to fix the fences.
'Where you been?' I said.
'To see Mum,' she answered matter of factly. 'I visit her in the forest whenever I can.'
Over the past year, Mary's forest visits have increased. She tells me Mum's still angry with Dad but says we're to be good boys and girls. I dare not tell her about the suicide in case she goes over the edge.
Dad and I watch her carefully and I do my best to protect her from going too far at school. We have this pact, Dad and I. Not to let Mary hurt herself.

Today, Mary disappears before dinner time. It is later than normal, so we expect her back reasonably quickly.
'I hope she took something warm,' I say as we sat down to Dad's special chops and potato. 'Least it's a full moon.'
Dad stops mid-mouthful and stares at the calendar. 'Oh hell,' he says. 'This is the day your mother died. What is she up to?'
'Oh, I didn't know. Mary won't either, Dad. Relax. She always comes back.'
'Get your coat, lad. Bring your rifle. There's wild dogs out there at the moment. They been takin' the new lambs. No tellin' what they might do if your sister's alone in the bush.'
His sudden concern for Mary worries me. We hike into the forest in the direction Mary always runs. The night is almost cloudless and the moon spreads light among the clearings. A bird screams somewhere ahead of us and I feel the presence of eyes all around. Dad pushes on urgently. He seems to know the way.
Wild dogs in the forest. It seems ludicrous but Dad's an old bushman so I believe him. We reach a clearing where the moonlight filters through the forest canopy.

I call, 'Mary, Mary.' But, nothing.
Dad has stopped in the middle of the clearing. 'She mustn't be here, Dad.' But, he's still and ignores me. He looks directly ahead.
'Mary,' he says softly. 'My Mary, what's happened to you?' It's as if he's talking to her. And then I see her, lying as if asleep on the shorter grass. The moonlight seems to seek her out and it's clear she's not conscious.
Dad kneels by her side whimpering and crossing himself like a mad priest. I stare, stunned by what I'm watching. The air suddenly feels chill, and I feel my bones cold like ice is melting down my spine.
'Mary! Mary!' Dad wails.
From nowhere a different light rises above her body. Like illumined, misty smoke, it moves upward and folds like cloth. The figure of a woman emerges.
Dad screams out, covers his eyes. He staggers back away from Mary watching the shape writhing above her body. 'Go away! Go away! Give me back my Mary!'
I raise my gun and aim. In my sights, I make out a face I haven't seen since I was a child. I know it's Mummy. I tense my finger on the trigger, hoping against hope that my bullet will puncture this apparition and leave us to help Mary.
The gun crack amid the screaming is barely perceptible to me. Somehow, I can't shoot the woman and swing the rifle off into the dark.
'Ahh!' I hear. My father slumps to ground.
'Dad, Dad,' I call helplessly and rush to his aid. The bullet's penetrated the left side of his head and blood trickles down his stubbled face. I hug his head and rock, sobbing. I didn't mean it, Dad. I didn't mean it.
In all the craziness, I've forgotten the apparition, and my sister. The night air seems suddenly warmer and dappled cloud partially hides the moon.
'It's over, Reuben. It's even.' I look up. It's Mary, smiling down at me as if we're in some happy place.
She looks different, almost peaceful, transparent.
'I knew you'd believe me one day. Daddy will be happy again. He'll be with Mummy and me. Look after yourself, sweet brother.'
I feel two soft touches on my cheeks. The moon reappears. I'm alone.


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